The Cutting-Edge Scientific Achievements of the University of Ljubljana in 2015

Each year, the University of Ljubljana opens the traditional University Week with the presentation of its cutting-edge scientific achievements. The purpose of the event is to emphasize the University focus on research work and to highlight those scientists who have achieved good results during the current year.

A special Commission selects the authors of the ten most significant scientific achievements of the University of Ljubljana. The Commission first considers the international rating, which is caused by citation index and credibility of a certain scientific journal, which publishes the surveys of Slovenian researchers. When making its decision, the Commission also takes into account the comprehensive importance of the discovery, its practical side, and whether it is interesting for the expert community and the society.


The list of the ten most significant scientific achievements of the University of Ljubljana in 2015:

1. The new generation of tetracycline antibiotics effective against multi-resistant bacteria (the Biotechnical Faculty).

Authors: Urška Lešnik, Tadeja Lukežič, Ajda Podgoršek, Jaka Horvat, Tomaž Polak,Martin Šala,
Branko Jenko, Kirsten Harmrolfs, Alain Ocampo-Sosa, Luis Martinez-Martinez, Paul R. Herron, Štefan Fujs, Gregor Kosec, Iain S. Hunter, Rolf Müller, Hrvoje Petković.

Due to the increasingly widespread resistance to antibiotics, the absence of antimicrobials is the major current problem in the treatment of infectious diseases. Prof. Dr. Hrvoje Petković and his colleagues from the Biotechnical Faculty cloned a group of genes to biosynthesize a tetracycline antibiotic’s chelocardin gene cluster produced by the Amycolatopsis sulphurea bacterium. In cooperation with the Acies Bio, doo Company, they later used the most advanced procedures of the biosynthesis engineering to develop a new tetracycline carboxyamido-chelocardin antibiotic. It features a new mode of action and effective exposure to many multiresistant pathogens that cause infectious diseases.

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2. The large predators are back to the modern densely populated Europe (the Biotechnical Faculty).

Authors: Klemen Jerina, Ivan Kos, Miha Krofel, Aleksandra Majić Skrbinšek, Hubert Potočnik, Tomaž Skrbinšek.

By the mid-twentieth century, people exterminated large predators in the major part of the Europe. Small populations of predators were preserved only in the most remote areas and had poor long-term prospects. Today the situation is completely different. A stable population of brown bears, wolves, Eurasian lynxes and wolverines again lives in many European countries, and not only in the wild nature, but in the protected parklands as well.

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3. The bibliometric methods of management and organization (the Faculty of Economics).

Authors: Ivan Župič, Tomaž Čater.

Using bibliometric methods makes it possible to summarize and visualize the scope of scientific knowledge. In future, the bibliometric methods (analysis of parallel links, thematic analysis, analysis of co-authorship, etc.) will become one of the three basic methods of scientific literature generalization in the field of management and organization besides the meta-analysis and structured literary resume. The bibliometric methods have specific practical implications for researchers. They allow to easier and more systematically monitor the development of their scientific fields (with display and visualization) as well as to quickly identify the most important scientific works within a new industry (with the quotation analysis) and potentially to predict more accurately the further development of this industry.

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4. Simple and efficient production of pure hydrogen trioxide (HOOOH) (the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology).

Authors: Gregor Strle, Janez Cerkovnik

Water (HOH) and hydrogen peroxide (HOOH) are the only known natural stable compounds consisting of the hydrogen and oxygen elements. Scientists were trying to prove the existence of hydrogen trioxide (HOOOH), its higher order homolog, for more than a hundred years, but the first reliable information about its existence appeared in the sixties of the last century. During the last two decades, the research in this field have become more intensive, mainly due to the development of methods for producing hydrogen trioxide. A considerable part of these studies has been carried out exactly at the University of Ljubljana.

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5. Stability of the globular proteins clusters (the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology).

Authors: Miha Kastelic, Yurij V. Kalyuzhnyi, Barbara Hribar Lee, Ken A. Dill, Vojko Vlachy.

Proteins are biological macromolecules that are essential for the vital activity of organisms. Protein molecules can bind into clusters (compounds). This process is called aggregation. The formation of clusters may be desirable or undesirable. It may result in the decay thereof into two liquid phases that have different degrees of protein concentration, which is the first step towards their crystallization and isolation. Of course, it is not desirable for medications, and even more so, for living organisms, for which this process is associated with such pathologies as Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to its special structure, the protein behaviour is very complex. Nevertheless, some features of the proteins can be predicted using relatively simple models.

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6. Ray topological charge control in nematic liquid crystals (the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics).

Authors: Maryam Nikkhou, Miha Škarabot, Simon Čopar, Miha Ravnik, Slobodan Žumer, Igor Muševič.

The employees of the Jožef Stefan Institute and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Ljubljana published an article in the Nature Physics journal describing the experiments, in which, using a strong laser beam, scientists created and stabilized a pair of topological defects in a liquid crystal. This creates a defect and anti-defect, a kind of a “particle” and its “antiparticle”.

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7. In-depth data analysis under combination of several information sources (the Faculty of Computer Sciences and Informatics).

Authors: Marinka Žitnik, Blaž Zupan.

Today, a huge volume of information is present in all spheres of our activities. Even in the development of antibiotics, though the last, new indeed antibiotic was discovered four decades ago. However, there is an amoeba, which is resistant to pathogenic bacteria. Knowing the way of its behaviour could lead to invention of the new treatment methods. At the same time, detecting bacterial resistance mechanisms, even in an amoeba, requires expensive and time-consuming experiments. The Baylor College of Medicine spent five years to discover four resistant genes.

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8. The future calorific technologies for heat pumps and refrigerators (the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering).

Authors: Andrej Kitanovski, Jaka Tušek, Urban Tomc, Uroš Plaznik, Marko Ožbolt, Blaž Jelenc, Alojz Poredoš.

In the light of searching for the energy-efficient appliances with minimal impact on the environment, the world applies significant efforts to discover alternative energy conversion technologies. In the field of refrigeration and heat pumps, various technologies exist along with the conventional vapour compression devices. Among them, the highest potential is demonstrated by the so-called “calorific technologies”, which due to the sustainability of processes represent a serious alternative for the future. The staff of the Laboratory for Refrigiration Problems and Regional Energy Engineering of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana is one of the leading research groups in the field of energy heat conversion with a magnetocaloric, electrocaloric and elastocaloric effect.

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9. Timing and spatial genetic analysis of virus during an outbreak of Ebola in the West Africa (the Faculty of Medicine).

Authors: Tatjana Avšič Županc, Miša Korva.

Ebola virus in the West Africa claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people, and had a crucial social and economic impact on the lives of the continent. The epidemic began with the death of a two-year old boy who was infected through contact with an infected bat in Guinea. The epidemic spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Experts suggested that Ebola virus adapted to humans and spread rapidly among the population, while the possible genetic changes represented an additional obstacle for the development of vaccines, a specific method of treatment and diagnosis. Prof. Dr. Avšič Županc and Dr. Miša Korva actively participate in the work of the Consortium of European Mobile Laboratory (konzorcij Evropskega mobilnega laboratorija), which was the first to conduct clinical studies by installing a modern field laboratory right after the first outbreak of the epidemic.

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10. An effective program of the population-based screening of children for the high blood cholesterol levels (the Faculty of Medicine).

Authors: Gašper Klančar, Urh Grošelj, Jernej Kovač, Nevenka Bratanič, Nataša Bratina, Katarina Trebušak Podkrajšek, Tadej Battelino.

The research team led by Prof. Dr. Tadej Battelino was first in the world to publish the performance indicators of the population-based children-screening program for an increased blood cholesterol level in the leading cardiology journal — the “Journal of American College of Cardiology”. The purpose of this publication was to identify the patients with familial hypercholesterolemia. For 57% of children admitted to the hospital with increased blood cholesterol levels, the diagnosis of Familial Hypercholesterolemia was confirmed at the genetic level. Early detection and treatment of hereditary hypercholesterolemia is very important because in the patients with this timely undetected diagnosis the risk of cardiovascular diseases is approximately 100 times higher than in healthy people.

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